Deepmala 32 – Development : What does it really mean?

The word ‘Development’ has become a global term. It has been used to rank countries as ‘developed’, developing’, and ‘under developed’. These are mainly economic indicators. The implicit reasoning in this ranking is that the state of the ‘developed’ countries is what all other countries should aspire for. It is assumed that the problems of poverty and standards of living will be tackled by following the path of the ‘developed’ countries. What does one commonly understand by ‘development’? Basically it is all about mass mechanisation and industrialisation, high levels of output of goods and services, super affluence in material goods, high consumption of natural resources, increased leisure time, fast communication, creating of an atmosphere where mental and intellectual skills alone become more and more valued.

The economic growth has to happen through industrialisation and so ‘modernisation’ and ‘progress’ have become equated with industrialisation. This has limited the meaning of ‘development’ and somehow led to the devaluing of the people themselves. Paradoxically, it is often forgotten that is the people who are the real focus of development. Development is the growth of people, of people’s capacities and strengths, of people’s participation and self-reliance, of people’s equality. No nation can develop unless people develop.

The world considers India as a nation that is not developed. I fail to understand how a nation whose people have produced -Taj Mahal be called backward? The exquisite embroidery of Kutch and Rajasthan is in great demand in the boutiques of Paris, the Madhubani paintings of women of Bihar are in the international markets, how can one call them backword? Yes, they are poor and illiterate but poverty and illiteracy are necessarily not backwardness. Why should such talented people of ours remain poor and illiterate, that is the question, we need to answer.

Let us, therefore, redefine ‘backwardness’, understand better what we want when we say ‘progress’ and ‘modern’. Yes, we do want to progress, industrialise, modernise, globalise let us do it in our Indian way.

For that, we have to understand our cultural institutions, the displacing effect of new technologies on the work, culture and identity of our people, understand our mode of work which most often is self employment; we have to identify the forces which encourage concentration of resources in the hands of a few and destroy the decentralised traditional system. We have to think and act with utmost urgency to come out of poverty without damaging our ecosystem, our values, our identity. We have to develop and nurture a sense of pride in our own life styles and value systems instead of running them down as ‘backward’. My plea is that let us redefine ‘ a new development paradigm’ for the India of our dreams.